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Republican lawmakers on Tuesday urged President Joe Biden to extend the evacuation period from Afghanistan beyond Aug. 31, the date originally set for the withdrawal of international troops.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urged Biden to “forget” about that deadline and extend the security perimeter around the Kabul airport to evacuate all American citizens.
“The Taliban should not be the ones telling us how long we can be there to get our personnel out. That’s our decision, not theirs,” McConnell said in an interview on Fox News.
At a press conference in Kabul on Tuesday, top insurgent spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid reiterated that the Taliban are not willing to allow an extension of the departure date that Biden himself had set, in agreement with their NATO allies.
At a press conference, another group of legislators led by the “number two” of House Republicans, Steve Scalise, criticized the chaotic and hasty withdrawal of the American troops and compared it to the fall of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) which put an end to the Vietnam War in 1975.
“We have to find a better way to evacuate. This is a tragedy!” said Republican lawmaker Brian Mast, who fought in Afghanistan and lost both his legs while trying to defuse an explosive device in that country.
For their part, Democrats have supported Biden’s decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan, but some members of Congress have criticized his evacuation strategy, even expressing doubts about his ability to complete the withdrawal by Aug. 31.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat, called it “unlikely” that the evacuation can be completed by Aug. 31 because of the large number of Americans and Afghan collaborators remaining in the country.
Biden is facing increased pressure at home and abroad to extend the deadline for evacuations, an issue that focused part of Tuesday’s debate at a virtual G7 meeting.